Moonee Valley squeeze still aims to please

It will be a tight squeeze again at Moonee Valley racecourse for the BusVic Maintenance Conference and Bus Expo, with crowd numbers swelling

Moonee Valley squeeze still aims to please
Moonee Valley squeeze still aims to please

By David Goeldner | May 26, 2011

The program is set, the chassis lined up, and big crowds are getting ready to converge on Melbourne’s Moonee Valley racecourse for the 2011 iteration of BusVic’s Maintenance Conference and Bus Expo on 4-5 July.

BusVic Executive Director Chris Lowe says the conference and expo has now reached capacity at the Moonee Valley site to the point where potential exhibitors are being turned away.

"Every year we’ve had to turn business away – we’ve turned the tap off," Lowe says.

"We just can’t fit any more people into the venue."

Lowe says BusVic would like to be in a position to take 1500 people, and even with this year’s expected crowd figure of 1300, it will still be a squeeze.

"We’ve outgrown Moonee Valley and we are looking at alternative venues," Lowe says.

"We have an agreement with Moonee Valley that will be there one more year, but we are not obligated to move."

Lowe says the racecourse facilities will undergo redevelopment sometime over the next few years, but as yet undetermined until planning is finalised.

"Moonee Valley doesn’t have a definite timeline for redevelopment so we’ll stay there until an opportunity presents itself," Lowe says.

In the face of ever-tightening exhibition space, Lowe and his team will showcase 75 chassis at this year’s event.

"We get demands from bus manufacturers all over the world who want to bring their product to Australia," Lowe says.

"They want to showcase their product, but we just can’t fit them in."

Lowe says it was nevertheless pleasing that other suppliers want to showcase their product at BusVic’s annual event.

"But we are sorry we are unable to take them all."

This year’s conference again streams the program content into technical and management parallel sessions, with the ‘hot topic’ of the Bus Safety Act kicking off proceedings.

"The Bus Safety Act is the biggest issue at the moment," Lowe says.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty associated with the Act, the regulations and the decisions the regulators have taken to administer the Act."

Lowe expects this session to draw large numbers seeking clarity on how to move forward.

"There is so much anxiety and concern amongst Victoria’s bus operators in relation to the Act," he says.

Also in the program are sessions on industrial relations, school bus area reviews, tour and charter work, and public transport network planning.

Apart from management topics, technical aspects of the program will cover emission comparisons, electrical diagnostics, alternative fuel use, and manual handling procedures.

"The event’s roots lie as a mechanic’s conference for buses, that’s how the whole thing started 57 years ago," says Lowe.

"It was very technical in nature and only lately has the management discipline been integrated into the program."

Lowe is mindful not to allow one stream dominate the other.

"We always have a technical stream and we always have a management stream – the numbers are very balanced in both."

Another regular feature at the conference is the opening address from the incumbent Victorian transport minister.

Lowe doesn’t expect new Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder to make any policy announcements at the conference, although he looks forward to hearing an outline of the Victorian Government’s public transport agenda.

"I would expect the Minister might inform the delegates of some of his strategic objectives and some of the goals the new government want to kick," Lowe says.

"The thrust of the public transport debate has been very rail centric, and there are a lot of people who want to know what the Minister wants to do with bus."

The timing of the event again coincides with Victoria’s school holidays, based on the practicality of getting as many of the state’s 600 operator members – about 75 percent of whom operate school bus services – along to the conference.

"Operators, administrators, suppliers and regulators – a minestrone soup of industry – are expected to be at the conference," Lowe says.

"It’s a remarkable opportunity for all corners of the industry to connect."

Lowe says it’s also pleasing to hear that much business on the supplier’s side of the industry is conducted at the conference.

"And it’s also pleasing to hear delegates walking away from sessions saying they learnt something."

The conference will again be chaired by Sam Lucas who will act as MC over the two-day event.

Conference sessions commence at 9am on Monday 4 July and conclude at 5pm on Tuesday 5 July.

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